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Iraq

Iraq stands firm on ex-PM death sentence

Reuters/Saad Shalash

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has rejected Italy’s request that former vice-Prime Minister Tarik Aziz be spared the death penalty. Zebari called on other countries to respect the sentence, which was given on 26 October by Iraq’s high court.

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The Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini arrived Sunday in Iraq. He met designated Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and is due to meet President Jalal Talabani.

The visit is designed to promote econoomic cooperation and to discuss the situation of Christians in Iraq, according to Italian diplomats.

"We confirmed to him the necessity to respect the decision of Iraqi justice,” said Zebari. “Aziz received all of his rights, it was not a secret or hidden trial. He had a defence. Everyone should respect the decision of Iraqi courts."

Aziz was convicted of murder and crimes against humanity during repression of Shia Muslims under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. He has been in prison since April 2003, a month after the US invasion of Iraq.

Russia, the Vatican and several Arab countries have called for clemency.

Talabani has said that he will never sign Aziz's execution order, in keeping with his stance against capital punishment.

"Measures will be taken to enhance of the protection of the Christians," Zebari said. "We will send positive signals to the world by rebuilding churches and protecting
the Christians."

Zebari added that Italy was interested in broadening trade relations with Iraq.

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